Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Vigorous Mind

by Ingrid E. Cummings

This is another book suggested by Jenclair. It's absolutely dangerous for me to read her blog because I am tempted to add just about every book she reviews to my TBR list. I know I've mooched or bought several books because of her reviews. I shouldn't grumble because I enjoy every single one.

Author Cummings contends that it's important to cross-train our minds in much the same way we cross train our bodies by engaging in different types of mental activities. If your job requires specialization you should something to do with a few minutes of your spare time that takes you in a different direction. You might be a brain surgeon so you should spend some of your off time playing a musical instrument or playing a musical instrument.

She suggests spending 20 minutes a day on an interest that you've been putting off. Those 20 minutes add up over time. Many times what we learn from doing distinctly different activities will aid us in our area of specialization and vice versa.

Cummings suggest activities at the end of several chapters. One of those was to make a Bliss List - a list of 20-50 activities you'd love to try (or return to) if only you had the time, energy, strength, courage, and so on. Then in the next chapter we chose 3 of those activities we were willing to spend 20 minutes a day doing.

I chose 4: gardening, journaling, writing a better book review and geography. I have spent lots of time preparing a vegetable garden plan. I studied about companion plants. I also spent time taking pictures of both our vegetable garden and flower beds, including them in an digital notebook with comments about care and any changes I would like to make. I've been extremely pleased with my progress on this activitiy.

I've done pretty good on my geography goal, too. I look up places on Google Earth when I read or hear about someplace. I have a niece who went on a mission in Uruguay so I looked that up and zoomed in on Montevideo. I love Google Earth because people can post pictures of places and the rest of can look at them. I decided I would like to visit S. America. From there I found myself wandering over to Africa. All-in-all I've had fun learning about new places and becoming more knowledgeable about more familiar places.

I have done a little studying about writing book reviews but I still need lots of work. I have discovered that I would benefit with some tips on reading. You know - understanding characterization, plot, etc.

My last activity was journaling. I've only made a thimbleful of headway. I ordered Ira Progoff's At a Journal Workshop and even read a few pages, but that's all. Maybe there's something to only choosing 3 activities at a time.

Let's get back to the book. One thing I really liked was all the quotes that Cummings sprinkled throughout the book. I always had my highlighter with me while reading. Another was the examples of people who have accomplished so much in their lives by devoting small chunks of time, over time, to various activities. Cummings throughout basketful of suggestions, thinks I may never have thought of and many that I wasn't interested in but many that I was. I've started drawing Zentangles and learning French. Neither were on my Bliss List, although I've always wanted to learn French. I'm finding it a bit difficult at 57, but I'm bound and determined. It's a little hard when I'm the one reading the words, seeing the pronunciation hints and listening to the narrator and my husband and daughter pick it up so quickly and easily and all they do is hear the narrator. (I think that was a run-on sentence!)

Obviously, this book fired me up and encouraged me to pursue some activities I've put off for years. Now if I could just remember better. Don't suggest any memory books, I've already read at least 5 or maybe 10. I'd hate to think where I'd be if I had not gleaned some helpful skills from those books. After rambling through this post, I think I should focus on 'how to focus'.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Secret Keeper

by Paul Harris

The Secret Keeper, set in war-torn Sierra Leone, tells the story of one man’s search for the truth in a nation where the rules of civilized society simply don’t apply.

Danny Kellerman, the main character, is based loosely on the author himself who spent time as a journalist covering the civil war in Sierra Leone. I think that may be one reason why the events, setting, characters and story seemed so real. Another reason is that Harris is a good writer. Not everyone can capture in writing their own experiences in such a compelling way. I could write about an event in my life and it would read like 'Dick and Jane.'

This book is fiction and the events that take place are fiction, but they feel like they could have really happened.

Danny receives a letter from his girlfriend of 4 years previous, the one he knew in Sierra Leone. She asks him to return because she is in a great deal of trouble. Somehow the note was waylaid and Danny heard about her death before the note arrived. He is shaken and feels he must return to find answers.

There's an element of mystery as Danny hunts for clues and uncovers bits and pieces of Maria's life. He discovers Maria wasn't the woman he knew. I always like it when the story is peeled back a layer at a time. It adds to the interest and suspense.

I highly recommend The Secret Keeper. It'd be a perfect Father's Day gift. I think most men would love this book. That doesn't mean women won't. There are many reviews for this book written by women, all seem to feel the same as I do - it's a winner. Here are some other reviews you may want to check out:

Maw Books
Peeking Between the Pages
Musings of a Bookish Kitty
My Friend Amy

Only one suggestion: I would love to have had a map of Africa in the front of the book showing where Sierra Leone is and the capital, Freetown, where most of the action takes place. As it was I looked it up on Google Earth. I just need to reaquaint myself with exactly where it was in relation to other nations in Africa.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Win a Free Copy of Bound

I love holding drawings for free books. This one is even better because I get to draw THREE names who will each win a copy of Bound by Sally Gunning. A big thanks to the folks at Harper. Read my review here.

If you like historical fiction, I think you will be very pleased with this book. Gunning tells the story of a young girl who becomes an indentured servant when her father sells her due to his dire circumstances. The political backdrop for this personal story of hardships is the colonists growing complaints of being taxed so heavily by the mother country without any representation.

To win this book
Leave a comment to this post AND
tell me the name of one of your favorite historical novels.
Include your email address

I will draw 3 winners
on June 1

Monday, May 18, 2009


by Sally Gunning

I thoroughly enjoyed this historical novel by the same author of The Widow's War.
There were a couple of times I shook my head in disbelief, but when I thought about the time period and the youth of the main character, I decided those points were believable.

The book begins in the mid-1750's when 5-yr-old Alice leaves behind a life of poverty in England when her father moves the family to America. Instead of getting better the situation worsens and when they arrive in Boston Alice's father sells her into servitude. The story follows Alice until she is 19 or 20.

I look forward to reading more by this author. I think Sally Gunning is a name we will hear a lot over the next several years.